• We returned from our holiday last Wednesday and I just wanted to say a big thank you for organising our tours in Beijing last week.
  • Thank you for making possible an enjoyable trip for us. We learnt about Shanghai’s people, history and culture.
  • I am writing to you to thank you very much for our wonderful trip to Xian. The tour that you organised was fantastic.
China Language

China’s Language

Around one fifth of the world’s population speaks Chinese as their native language – over one billion people. Notoriously difficult to master, and with a complex writing system of pictographic characters, the Chinese language is one of the most mysterious and exotic in the world. Aside from the Standard Mandarin that is spoken by 850 million people, the language is made up of other dialects including Wu (spoken in the Shanghai area), Cantonese (in Guangdong Province and Hong Kong) and Min – the dialect of Fujian Province and Taiwan. As well as the main four, there are countless sub-dialects spoken across the country, which are often mutually unintelligible.

Standard Mandarin, also known as Putonghua (“general speech”) is the official language of the People’s Republic of China, and is taken from the dialect of Beijing. Thought to be the purest form of Mandarin, it is used as a lingua franca for speakers of other Chinese dialects who don’t understand each other, especially among migrant worker communities in big cities. In linguistic terms, Mandarin is known as an “analytic” language, which means that each sound represents a single word, generally speaking. Meaning is derived from four tones – flat, rising, dipping, and falling. While considered complex by many learners of the tongue, tones are a vital part of the Mandarin language.

China’s writing system is a beautiful behemoth consisting of nearly 50,000 characters, or hanzi. Each character consists of several strokes, and represents a single word. Unlike learning a simple alphabet, getting to grips with thousands of separate characters is a taller order, and Chinese children reach literacy several years after their Western counterparts. The writing system used on Mainland China is a scaled-down version of the characters used in Hong Kong and Taiwan; Chairman Mao simplified hanzi in the 1950s to improve literacy.